Work Trends Survey of Recent College Graduates

National survey of college graduates' experiences in the labor market.

In 2011, the Heldrich Center conducted a nationally representative survey of 571 graduates from four-year colleges and universities from the classes of 2006 through 2010 to examine the difficulties young people encountered as they entered a volatile labor market. The survey yielded several notable findings. While graduates were satisfied with their decision to complete a four-year degree, a large percentage reported they were struggling to find full-time, permanent jobs with benefits that will lead to fulfilling careers. Fifty-three percent of the graduates in the survey were working full time, and 21 percent were attending graduate or professional school. Fourteen percent were either unemployed (7%) or employed part time and looking for full-time work (7%). The median salary of all employed recent graduates in their first full-time job after finishing school was $30,000. College graduates who obtained their first job during the recession in 2009-2010 suffered a 10% “penalty” in reduced starting salaries compared to those who entered the workforce in 2006 and 2007. The survey also showed that half of all recent graduates were working in jobs that did not require a B.A. or B.S. degree. Yet, 62% believed they will need even more formal education if they are to be successful in their chosen career.

In 2012, the Heldrich Center conducted a nationally representative sample of 444 recent college graduates from the class of 2006 through 2011. The purpose of this study was to understand how recent college graduates were faring in the workforce, specifically looking at those individuals who graduated before and during the difficult labor market caused by the Great Recession. About three quarters reported having at least one full-time job since graduation. The median salary earned by these graduates was $28,000. 


Chasing the American Dream: Recent College Graduates and the Great Recession (May 2012)

Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy (May 2011)

Work Category
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Private contributions to the Heldrich Center